Monday, April 30, 2007

Now these are gators!







We went on a swamp tour in Louisiana and saw four small alligators. The big ones were hiding. So yesterday we compared notes... went to OUR swamp in the Loxahatchee wildlife refuge and saw real Florida gators. These boys would eat a Louisiana gator for breakfast. It's nearly mating season, when they get VERY aggressive and since we're in a drought and water levels are low... look out. It's happened before... gators wander into people's backyards and into their pools... looking for love. Yoikes.
We saw at least 14 gators hanging out in the canal by the pier yesterday. It was a little eerie, as they floated in the river, waiting for the people to catch fish... good thing no one fell in...














Saturday, April 28, 2007

Exhibition of the Vatican Mosaic Studio


This was well worth the $10 entry fee... It's at the Ursuline Convent (yes the haunted one but you can't get past the first floor, so don't worry!). This mosaic is worth about $1 million and is on loan from the Vatican. It's called VIRGIN OF THE CHAIR and is created from Raphael's "Madonna della Seggiola", 1513-1514.


Perspective


This is our house after Hurricane Wilma dumped the tree on it. Below this post, you'll see a small house with a yellow mark running around it. That's a home in Lakeview, where the 17th street canal breach took place. That's a watermark, how high the water came up. We were lucky. We could repair. We didn't lose much, compared to New Orleans.

photos from New Orleans











































Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's 5 o'clock somewhere


again

and again

and again! We fly a few hundred miles across Florida and other states to visit... what we visit in Key West? But on a balcony in n.o.... that's unique!



P.S. Dennis, our driver last night on the ghost tour, told us that Nicolas Cage now owns the most haunted house in New Orleans. The old Metarie house, where M. Metlaurie tortured her slaves. According to Dennis, he hangs out here more than CA, same as Brangelina, who also hang out here at their house, I guess when they're not out making movies or visiting developing countries (you go girl! One thing I like about Angelina... wish she would visit Haiti. )

boo

Soooo, our room at the Hotel Provincial is tres nice. A mini suite. It backs onto Ursuline AVenue. Last night we took a haunted tour on a carriage. And I found out about the legend of the Ursuline convent, which backs up to our hotel. Seems the casket girls' "coffins," the odd coffin-sized trunks shipped back from FRance, are stored in the attic. Rumor sez the attic windows are never opened, because there are vampires in those coffins. Ok.

Our bathroom window actually shows a decent view of those dormer windows. So when I shower and step out, I look up to see if the dormer windows are open and there's a nosey vampire peering down at me. Not yet. Could happen.

This hotel is haunted. Not our building, but the 500 building in the back where there was an old Civil War hospital. GUests have reported seeing surgeons sawing off limbs, and bloody sheets in the bathtub or when they turn down the covers for the night. Ewwwww. If I were to encounter a ghost, I'd want a pretty, debonair one.

Took the street car today down Canal all the way to City Park. Saw some sobering reminders of Katrina. The St. Charles streetcar still isn't running yet. I wish more people would come here... the french quarter is back to business as usual, but the crowds... aren't here. We ate lunch at the Coffee Pot and met a couple from Pensacola whose condo was severely damaged during Ivan. they're just getting their place back together. Our waitress, Pearl, is fighting with her homeowner's insurance company... her home got swamped by Katrina. We told her to hire a private insurance adjustor, which is what we did after Wilma dumped the tree on our house and wrecked our backyard and front yard. Pearl thanked us and went off to wait on the drunken birthday party that was ordering more $300 bottles of champagne. At least SOMEONE was spending nice, big bucks.

I hope they gave Pearl a big, fat tip. It was an odd, bonding moment, lunching there with the couple from Pensacola and Pearl waiting on us. All of us having experienced some big wreckage from Hurricanes named Ivan, Katrina and Wilma. I sure hope we never see another one again, except in bars on Bourbon Street. The kind you drink, not the kind that causes you headaches over damage to your home.

Monday, April 23, 2007

My birthday

We're in Nawlin's. Yesterday we had jazz brunch at Muriel's with Molly and Kay from BENT PAGES bookstore in Houman. Molly and Kay are sooo funny. They kept us laughing the whole time.
Today was my birthday and we started out with breakfast at the Coffee Pot, then took a ride on the Natchez. Then tonight we had dinner at Brennan's... omg the food! I had the redfish, Dh the steak diane. It was everything I'd heard... we sat by the glass wall overlooking the courtyard. The Pinot Noir was excellent.








Then, just as we thought we couldn't handle another bite, the staff came out singing "Happy Birthday" with a




slice of chocolate cake and my "leetle" friend, made of French bread and assorted garnishes. Our waiter M.R. named her Ruby. I told M.R. the friend had to have a name. So he named it Ruby.


Great birthday, excellent food. And I'm getting tons of research done for the next Nocturne. Yay!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

And more eye candy, before I depart


We're leaving in a little while, so here's my parting gift. Remember, it's always important to have a good mattress for a good night's ... rest?


More eye candy


I love this pix of Gerard... looks like he's saying, "My sword, it is SOOOO large, it is a deadly weapon, I love my big, long sword..."


Reminds me... anyone who's seen my March release, The Sword & the Sheath... YES, it was an inside joke to name the book that. I know all about the metaphor. hee hee.

Waldenbooks


Sad... Borders made the announcement last month they are closing 250 Waldenbooks stores (lots of malls) and converting their international stores to franchises. They're revamping. Have to. Business is down. Borders has 1,200 stores globally. One of my favorite Waldenbooks, where I loved doing signings, closed a few years ago. The manager was top notch, loved to read romance and promote it. Sigh...

The indies are also suffering... it's tough out there in bookland. I love independent bookstores, both used and new. The sellers are friendly and have this incredible knowledge of romance titles and authors, The service is personal.

In other news, here's more eye candy to round out a depressing news week... lift your spirits. Yee haw. Ride 'em, cowboy. Wonder what he'd look like in JUST the chaps...

Friday, April 20, 2007

My birthday present


Monday's my birthday and I'll be in New Orleans for book research. DH is taking me to Brennan's for dinner.
Then we'll go back to our room and guess what I'll be watching?
8 p.m. Mondays on Fox (hate the news, love the shows).
Firefly is gone, but Capt. Mal is back in DRIVE.

It's butt naked FRIDAY!!


As promised, more eye candy. Do you like the beach as much as I do?




Thursday, April 19, 2007

More eye candy


I'm tired of the news flashing the disturbing photos of that sicko who killed all those people this week at V. Tech, so in protest I'm running eye candy the rest of the week. I'd rather look at Gerard or other more soothing images. Enjoy. Tomorrow may be naked butt Friday.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The tower of writing

It's happened again. I'm stuck. Was writing merrily along, skipping on that path toward my goal when I hit a roadblock. Usually when this happens, I detour. Figure out what's next. Not this week. This time, I made a huge mistake. I read a negative review of one of my books.

Reality is, readers have a perfect right to post their opinions. I'm all for it. But reality is, writers shouldn't read it. Not when they can't afford to let the doubt demons kick in.

Publishing is a business. I have two more books due this year. I have contracts, legally binding contracts. The historical, which is at 20,000 words, is due in four months. Usually it takes me 6 months to write an historical. Then the day job has its own stress... I'll be in Haiti in three weeks. Then Honduras. May will be a crappy writing month and one I can't afford to take off.

So reality is, I can't afford to get stalled by those nasty doubt demons. If you're a writer, you've probably experienced them at one time. Those doubts that scream out that your writing sucks, your books suck, you're the worst writer in the history of publishing, all the way back to the Gutenburg Press. (1490) It's just your own self-doubt kicking in. But wow, those self-doubts can weigh in. Usually I can shrug them off, like a cloak, and go on my merry way. But this time, pressured by time and a deadline, I'm stuck like a motorist on I-95 at the Golden Glades during rush hour.

I keep thinking of that campy movie, Village of the Damned or Children of the Damned or whatever Damned title it is...where Christopher Reeve is thinking of a brick wall and the alien children with the flax hair and the glowing orange eyes are trying to kick it down mentally, get into his head and he's straining and straining and gasping to keep up the wall...

That's me (Reeve) and the doubt demons (the alien kids). Sooner or later, they storm in, kick my imagination around and wreck the place. It takes a day or two to corral them, herd them back to their pen and kick their collective butts.

I can't afford that time. Not this year.

I recently was curious about Lisa Valdez' next book and went searching to see if it were coming out next month. Then I read her website. Wow. I truly feel for Ms. Valdez. The doubt demons didn't just kick down the brick wall, they stampeded over it, assisted by the flood of negative email/etc. she received.

On her website, she says she's retreating to her tower and not receiving email. Good for her. Should an author shut herself off from cyber space and readers like that? Yes, when she has a book due and she knows those doubt demons may storm the brick wall.

Does this mean readers shouldn't post negative reviews or say stuff on message boards and only be nice? Of course not. The great thing about the internet is more readers have a forum to express their opinions, trade information, and talk about the genre they love. But as writers, when we know we are suspectible to those doubt demons, we should avoid them. Email is different... unless you can have a friend or associate screen your email.

Many writers have thin skin. We're sensitive, which can go along with the territory of being creative. One author I did a booksigning with recently advised the audience to grow a thick skin, this was after she received a barrage of angry emails about a blog post she wrote in jest that they took seriously.

Growing a thick skin isn't easy. I've tried. Now my skin isn't as thin as an onion peel. Maybe it has the density of a kumquat. But it's still thin and I'm still sensitive. Fact is, the negative and the positive things people say about your work go with the territory. You have to learn to deal with it. I thought I did... I had, until this week.

I hope Ms. Valdez is able to recharge and produce more books out of her tower. And I hope I can once reinforce that brick wall and keep out the doubt demons. Kick their collective booties back to the recesses of my mind, and move on past this roadblock.

Maybe I need a mantra, a writer's chant like the soothing one Buddhists recite to prepare them for meditation. Hmmm.

I will not let the doubt demons rule.
I will move on and continue to write.
I am an energized, vibrant, creative writer who has a wonderful story to tell that deserves to be told.
I am in control of my creative process.
The Gators will once more kick butt in sports next year. (too much to ask for, let's just stick with the priorities)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Time for EYE CANDY


The Virginia Tech shootings have left me sad, so I need to post some nice eye candy. How can you go wrong with this?


"Come to my villa, and I will make you dinner. You will like eating my big, long linguini. I promise."


Hee

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Heather Graham's The Dead Room



DH and I went to her booksigning tonight at Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach. OMG, if you EVER have the chance to attend a talk by Heather, go. She has the best stories. Riveting, fascinating history about all the places she's traveled, including New York City, where this book was set and it's history.





Now if I only had more time to read... sigh...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I need a hero!

I’m in mourning today. All of America should be. Kurt Vonnegut died, at the age of 84. Vonnegut was brilliant. Sharp, biting, his satirical novels and short stories carved him a place in American pop culture, a culture he mocked. Slaughterhouse-Five is his best known work, but I remember him most for having the guts to go his own way, not give a damn what anyone else thought and shock people, not to be popular, but to make them sit up and pay attention to what’s going on in the world. To think for themselves for a change.

An iconoclast who was a POW during WWII, (you know, the big one?), he was against censorship, was for saving the planet (he once suggested writing on the wall of the Grand Canyon, "we probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard... and too damn cheap," as a message to aliens who might landed there) and soul-growing society through diffuse art to block the increasing numbing of America through TV.

We need more folk heroes like Vonnegut. Folk heroes who stand for intelligent debate, shock us with their brilliant wit and crude humor and make us think for a change. Instead, we have shock jocks whose main goal is to increase their ratings and in the process, say cruel and racist things. I seriously doubt Vonnegut would have called the Rutgers female basketball players, “nappy-headed hos.”

The whole Imus debacle makes me wonder about the so-called dumbing down of America. A few months ago, Dh and I rented Idiocracy. The flick (Ethan Cohen co-wrote it with Mike Judge) was hilarious, and disturbing. It’s about the true dumbing down of America. In the movie, (spoiler alert!!) people in present-day America are intelligent and evolved. In the future, they’re dumber than shit. Honestly. That’s the only way to describe it. The mega corporation Brawndo manufactures a sports drink that people use for everything, from flushing their toilets to irrigating their crops, which is causing a food shortage and they don’t know WHY the crops won’t grow. The Brawndo advertising slogan is recited like we used to mumble Sunday School cathechism.

The movie left me disturbed because although it’s satire, you can see flecks of it here and there in today’s society. When American Idol is the number one show, and newspapers are struggling to breathe (look at the Tribune take-over, I have friends who work for Tribune papers) and people are more concerned with what happens to Anna Nicole’s rotting corpse than anything else, will Idocracy become our future? Are we becoming more passive as a nation, nodding like those head bobble dolls at everything thrown at us?

I sometimes wonder if it’s because we’re trying to do too much, cram too much, work too much, play too much and at the end of the day, we’re so freaking tired that shows like American Idol are all we can stand. I work at an emotionally draining day job. I also write romance novels at night. There's bills to pay, family health problems, birthdays, dogs to care for, you name it and I have two more books due this year. And sometimes I’m so exhausted all I want is mindless entertainment.

I too, am in danger of becoming a bobble doll. It’s times like that when I need a good kick in the brain and remind myself make the effort to reach for something better. It’s times like that when I find myself weeping for the demise of brilliance like Vonnegut. We need more folk heroes like him.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter!

Wishing you and yours the peace, joy and renewal of the Easter season. And may the Easter Bunny never attack you!